America’s 20-Millionth Marijuana Arrest – Coming To Your Home Or Person?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director October 3, 2008

    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board member

    An odometer roll over effect of sickening proportions is about to happen this October: American law enforcement will make its 20-millionth marijuana arrest. Regrettably however, our country will not be one step closer to any solution of this “problem” than we were when the federal government first started arresting people for cannabis seventy-one years ago today, with the first federal cannabis prohibition arrest of Samuel Caldwell.

    Halfway through this epoch in American history known as cannabis prohibition, Richard M. Nixon’s own handpicked Shafer Commission studied cannabis for nearly two years and concluded: no criminal penalties for adult possession of 100 grams of marijuana.

    Nixon was shocked by their findings and tried to bury the Shafer Commission’s report. Nixon instead proceeded with the “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I’ve got my mind made up” approach to governance, and the full-scale war on cannabis commenced.

    After four decades, this institutionalized war on ganja and its users grows larger with each passing year. This war on otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers has created literally millions and millions of unnecessary tribulations, taxpayer costs and casualties. In the period 1965-2007* there were 19,342,363 arrests for cannabis offenses, 89% of them for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis. Just before Election Day 2008, cops will arrest their 20-millionth man (or woman) for cannabis.

    And if you’re a regular ol’ cannabis consumer or a medical cannabis patient in need of one’s medicine, that tragic 20 millionth arrest could be you!

    Could be it be me, or one my loved ones!

    At the current pace of arrest, the 20-millionth cannabis arrest will happen by Oct. 10, 2008, within a week of the 71st anniversary of America’s very first federal cannabis arrest of the terminally ill Sam Caldwell in 1937.

    Who will he or she be, this unlucky person? Who will be the 20,000,000th victim of arrest during America’s cannabis prohibition?

    Watch out! It could be you!

    *1937-1965 marijuana arrest data is sketchy, but this adds many tens of thousands more arrests to the total. 2007 was the worst year on record with a total of 872,721 marijuana arrests, up 5% from 2006.

    **The numbers of Americans arrested for marijuana offenses now are so huge, perhaps the only way to get a grip on the humanity of this prohibition-driven social disaster, is to think of just a few of the people who have paid the ultimate price since I joined NORML’s Board of Directors in 2004, those who actually lost their lives in the enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

    John Walters, Bush’s Drug Czar, appearing on C-Span recently said, “We didn’t arrest 800,000 marijuana users…that’s [a] lie… The fact is today, people don’t go to jail for possession of marijuana. Finding somebody in jail or prison for possession of marijuana is like finding a Unicorn. It doesn’t exist.” Well, Walters is either lying or not reading his FBI Crime Reports, or both. Please, take an extra moment and look through this list of four cannabis prohibition victims to see if you can find a ‘Unicorn’.

    1) Jonathan Magbie, RIP: Washington D.C., died Oct. 30, 2004. A wheelchair-bound, 28-year old, African-American paraplegic who needed a respirator to breathe at night. Jonathan was sentenced to 10 days in jail for the possession of one single joint. His mother tried frantically for days to get Jonathan’s respirator to him through the jail’s paperwork. He died on the fourth day of his jail sentence from respiratory failure, just a few miles from the White House, ONDCP, DEA and other multi-billion federal bureaucracies waging a war on cannabis, when in stark reality their war is directed at folks like Jonathan Magbie.

    2) Timothy Garon, RIP organ transplant patient from Washington State, died May 1, 2008. Timothy was first on an organ transplant recipient list until a prohibitionist medical administrator busted Timothy off the list because Timothy tested positive for the medical marijuana that had been legally recommended and administered by his own doctor. Timothy died in Seattle while his case was under appeal.

    3) Rachel Hoffman, RIP, 23, Tallahassee, Fl was last seen alive on May 7, 2008. After two small quantity pot arrests, and a search of Rachel’s home that found a little more, the cops forced Rachel to go undercover without telling her parents or lawyer, by using the fear of the much more serious charges that might be filed against her if she didn’t do what the police demanded. The cops then placed Rachel on a baited hook and went trolling for sharks. The Tallahassee police department sent Rachel out to try to make a crack and firearms buy. Rachel Hoffman was found dead in a nearby county two days later.

    Then there is cannabis prohibition’s first official victim

    Samuel R. Caldwell, RIP, America’s first federal marijuana arrest, Denver, CO, Oct. 5, 1937. Arrested for selling two joints the day federal prohibition laws went into effect and was sentenced just two days later to four years in Leavenworth. Sam died of stomach cancer before his sentence was up. Sam Caldwell, America’s first incarcerated medical marijuana patient!

    Just four ‘Unicorn’ sightings from America’s 20-million marijuana arrests…and remember: 872,000 annual cannabis arrests, 2,390 arrest per day, 99 arrests per hour, one every 37 seconds. Just imagine how many more ‘unicorns’ there are, and are you like me when I say I’m insulted that a cabinet level officer in the Executive Branch has to lie to downplay the negative and costly effects of his $25 billion a year bureaucracy’s failure to actual control cannabis cultivation, sales and consumption.

    Hey Walters, how about some tax stamps for cannabis consumers just like your friends in the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries enjoy?

    “We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For.” — Pueblo saying

    While the staff at NORML and the NORML Foundation assiduously avoid including funding requests in their blog posts and news alerts, as a NORML Board member I’m asking you to join the other board members and I in helping to expand NORML’s uniquely important educational, legislative and litigation programs—as well as allowing the national office to be as supportive and responsive as possible to the organization’s growing networks of both state chapters and lawyers.

    I will be moderating a panel at NORML’s upcoming 37th annual national conference in Berkeley entitled: What If We Arrested 20 Million Americans—And No One Cared?

    These public conferences are the most important political gatherings of the year for the cannabis law reform community and I hope you, your family and like-minded friends can join us October 17-19. Conference details found here.

    37 Responses to “America’s 20-Millionth Marijuana Arrest – Coming To Your Home Or Person?”

    1. LA says:

      What I find sad is that I am smoking a pack a day of cigs. because I can’t find the other. Depressing to me.

    2. Nick says:

      its disgusting how “our” government decides its ok to prohibit marijuana, when it has not killed one person. and they feel that alcohol and tobacco isfine….
      as long as they are making thier money i guess..
      its disgusting and it bothers me

    3. Christopher says:

      What I find, in the words that make up the most valuable laws has become like a light to me… esp. the cannabis laws. It hard see that light… right up untill one looks to the Decleration of Independance, and the Constitution of the United States, and considers that both of the documents, were penned on HEMP papper. I can see my rights are being violated, and by whom.

    4. Kada says:

      I guess i could spell cannabis correctly if i am going to post something on the subject. oops.

    5. Kada says:

      Smoking cannibis is a part of my culture. It’s like the governemnt is telling me i have no right to have a culture different than they are used to. Drinking is a part of their culture, but they are used to it, so they embrace it. Arresting cannibis smokers is a type of culture rasism. I think racism exist more now because of beliefs, religion and culture not so much about skin color. It’s only natural that people think their ways (beliefs, thoughts, culture and religion) are the correct ways of life. I think the biggest problem people have is accepting others thoughts and opinions. Shouldn’t my culture be protected? Instead we are targeted as criminals, when there is no crime that has been commited and we are harming no one.

    6. VIPelle says:

      Among those 20 million arrested are: Louis Armstrong, Hal Ashby, Dan Aykroyd, Candy Barr, Lord Buckley, Neal Cassady, Eric Clapton, Macaulay Culkin, Bob Denver, Art Garfunkel, Billy Gray, Gene Krupa, Mezz Mezzrow, Robert Mitchum, Willie Nelson, Anita O’Day, Aaron Sorkin, and Ron White. I feel so much safer now.

    7. Jim says:

      Thanks Pakapal and anonymous. Y’all are right. It’s a characteristic noted by psychologists. I’m an INTJ that can easily change my mind given GOOD facts, but many people unfortunately are like what Allen says about Nixon – “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I’ve got my mind made up”.

      Some people just can’t help it. NOT that it’s a good excuse for what they’re doing to the rest of us.

    8. Anonymous says:

      “It’s obvious that those who have been poisoned to think of marijuana/hemp in a negative way will never be swayed by right minded arguments or by the pleas for compassionate understanding.”

      People are very stubborn and react aggressively when their conditioned beliefs are challenged- it is rare for people to change their minds. It takes a lot more than proof for new ideas to be accepted because proponents of the old system will generally continue to oppose them no matter what. It is not until years later, when these people have died out and newer generations have filled their places, that progress takes place (see: Galileo, Ignaz Semmelweis, etc.)

    9. Watch Zeitgeist Addendum 3/10/08 says:

      You should make the mug shoot picture available as a poster for download

    10. Pakapal says:

      It’s obvious that those who have been poisoned to think of marijuana/hemp in a negative way will never be swayed by right minded arguments or by the pleas for compassionate understanding.

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